3 questions to Anjes Tjarks

Anjes Tjarks is 39 years old. Since June 2020, he’s German senator with responsibility for Transport and Mobility Turnaround in Hambourg. 

How is the City of Hamburg coping with the Covid-19 pandemic? What strategies are being used to stop the virus spreading?

Due to a combination of measures such as social distancing, event restrictions, distance regulations, mask duties etc., Hamburg has come through the Covid-19 pandemic without overwhelming the health system. Unfortunately, a large part of the economy had to be shut down in the process; however, this situation can currently be gradually reversed while adhering to hygiene concepts. To help the economy through this difficult time, an emergency aid program (“Hamburg Corona Soforthilfe – HCS”) was launched during the lockdown in order to help the Hamburg companies with monetary compensation. This was followed by an economic stimulus program of the German Government.

How has the crisis affected public transport? How has public transport adapted?

In the interest of infection protection, Hamburg has ensured from the beginning that public transport remains largely unchanged, so that even at peak times of the pandemic with around 70% less passengers, around 90% of the transport services were still provided. The offer was even expanded on some bus routes in order to be able to maintain minimum distances. The decline in passengers is of course accompanied by correspondingly large losses in revenue.

Public transport was supplemented by the option of using taxis and the ridesharing service MOIA at night between 0:00 and 6:00 a.m. free of charge with a HVV ticket or otherwise at a reduced price. After the lock down, passenger numbers have increased. Overall, it is a priority that the passengers are able to comply with distance regulations and masks duties and can continue to use public transport as a means of transport.

How do you see life after Covid-19? Do you think the crisis will have changed people’s mobility habits?

If the positive development of decreasing infection rates continues, it can be assumed that despite a certain scepticism, the number of passengers in public transport will (slowly) recover. Furthermore, it can be assumed that when using public transport, passengers will try to keep their distance from each other if possible. After a slight uptrend of infections during the summer break Hamburg established a requirement to wear a mouth and nose cover in all public transport. In addition, the transport companies have developed measures to win back customers. This involves for example additional cleaning staff for buses, trains and stations. It will take a while until public transport passenger numbers are back on the pre-pandemic-level.

At best, the experiences (home office, video conferencing, more foot and bike use) and new, innovative ideas could help with parts of the development of a modern mobility infrastructure and culture.